The Marshalltown (Iowa) Menagerie (ninety-plus carvings)

Circa: 1930
Average size of animal: +/- 4" (l) x +/- 2 1/2" (h) / Display 38" (w) x 58" (h)
The Marshalltown Menagerie is a group of ninety-plus extraordinary carvings created by an individual, unknown carver from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Each animal is thoughtfully executed—with no repeats. Some have numerical tags, which likely, at some time, identified them as part of a key for display.

According to family history, they were acquired directly from the artist by a Mr. Calvin White in lieu of payment. They remained within the White family for at least eighty years and are now just receiving their well deserved exposure.

While most are carved from a single block of wood and then painted, some are finished with rose thorns, cactus thorns, sawdust, and vegetable fibers to add additional detail. With the scale and number of carvings, one may think of the Noah’s Ark carvings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were mass produced through a cottage industry—these are not those—each animal has a personality.

From the polar bear with its lifted leg and “Pete the Pup” like black circled eyes; the beautifully posed and mottled spotted hyena; a Mongolian sheep with brown painted “wool,” achieved with applied sawdust and glue; to the dynamic seahorse with an elegant coiled tail, big doughy eyes and tens of applied spiky cactus thorns. There are groups of animals with horns and tusks, a group of dinosaurs, fish, and birds—all unique creations.

One of the wildest carvings is a large sea creature (possibly the Loch Ness Monster given the circa 1930’s creation of these carvings). It has large orange fins and scalloped fins along its lanky back, and holds a smaller animal in its toothy jaws.

The most complex of the carvings is a circus cart, which is composed of many elements. The fancifully painted cage on the back of the cart contains a wild, spotted beast. Atop the cart sits a hurdy-gurdy monkey and a colorful slithering snake. A man sits at the reins and ushers two giraffes who pull the wagon.


Condition: Excellent with expected wear from age and use.

Price: SOLD